Blogger Q&A: 5 TV shows that need a movie
The journey from the small screen to the big one is fraught with peril, but for shows that succeed, the rewards are. . . pretty much the same as the rewards of having a good TV show, really. Money, popularity, all that stuff. For fans of a TV show, though, a movie revitalization can be a very exciting event. It can bring back a cast that hasn’t been together in years, send a beloved cast off in grand fashion, or just provide a longer-than-usual adventure. Here are five shows that we think could benefit from the experience.
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Let’s face it; the heights of narrative television belong on narrative television. Trying to compartmentalize Breaking Bad or The Wire into a neat two and a half hours reduces character motivations, expanded character arcs, and plotlines to an almost generic mush. Narrative television is at its best when it uses a familiar set-up (detective solves spooky murder, murderer tries to avoid being caught, an office grows and shrinks through the sixties from the perspective of the man who is sad) and draws it into specificity over hours and hours. The best television adaptation, therefore, is not one that tries to cut the details from a simple structure, but the one that expands on too simple a structure by adding details.
Lots of syndicated television series use the same rhythms and story beats repeatedly to induce a sense of familiarity. Enter Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and eighteen seasons of watching Elliot Stabler become a little too protective of his daughter, and of Detective Tutuola seeming not to grasp exactly what their unit does. These character beats pluck at interesting ideas about family, security, cynicism, and sex. Unfortunately, for a show always dedicated to round-the-clock syndication, a character beat that dramatically alters a character’s worldview would divide the show into parts audiences like and dislike. Mix that with the hour-long format and the show’s mysteries often become giveaways, with the culprit set up by structural perfection rather than by any actual clues or thematic points. A feature-length film would force that structure out and allow the character dynamics to actually weave in and out of the mystery proper. With a cast including Mariska Hargitay and Richard Belzer, a breezy crime thriller that gets to stretch its legs could be some fun. — Alex Lovendahl
The more I mull over this question, the more I realize that there aren’t that many TV series I’ve loved that would translate well into a movie. At least, not any that haven’t already done so. Therefore, I cheat. I would love to see a movie spun off from the brilliant cop series The Shield, from creator Shawn Ryan (The Unit, Lie to Me), but this is mostly because the series itself, as brilliantly as it ended, just left me wanting more.
When last we saw Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), he’d been saddled with a desk job after his actions resulted in the murder/suicide of Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins) and his family, and Ronny Gardocki (David Rees Snell) taking the fall for the corrupt dealings of Vic’s team. The final scene of the series sees Mackey chasing sirens out into the night, unable to resist the rush of being on the streets busting heads. Where does he go from here? Does Vic become some kind of vigilante? How do the surviving major characters pick up the pieces Vic’s destructive actions left behind?
The Shield follows a formula that has been seen before in movies. Corrupt cops have been fodder for some great cinematic stories in the past — think Gary Oldman in The Professional, or Denzel Washington in Training Day, just to name a couple. So, really, a one-off movie adaptation of The Shield would ultimately be a lot less effective than some sort of continuation. After all, just as with my other favorite good-guy-gone-bad series, Breaking Bad, part of the exhilaration was watching the story develop over so much more time than is afforded in a two-hour movie.
Come to think of it, I guess all I’m really saying is that I just want The Shield to come back to TV. — Nigel Druitt
Writer/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have become hugely successful by taking crazy ideas and making them actually work. An entire film about Legos? Sure! How about an entire show about the last man on earth? Why not! Reboot the 80’s TV show 21 Jump Street into a high school comedy? Hell, let’s make it a franchise! And combine it with the Men in Black!
But the first project that Phil Lord and Chris Miller created is also their only somewhat failure, the now cult classic Clone High. As the title implies, Clone High takes place at a high school full of clones of famous historical figures in a semi-Dawson’s Creek parody. The school included Abe Lincoln, Joan of Arc, JFK, and Gandhi — whose involvement in the show ended up likely being a reason for the show’s cancellation after one season. Watching over the school was Principal Scudworth, a mad scientist, and his robot butler Mr. Butlertron, voiced by Lord and Miller, respectively.
Clone High was a phenomenal series that was so strange and so brilliant that it deserved far more than the thirteen episodes it received. Fans of Miller and Lord’s work can catch plenty of references to all their future work in Clone High, such as Forte playing Abraham Lincoln in The Lego Movie or how every film has a dolphin (which appeared in every episode of the show). Lord and Miller have said that “our entire career has just been about getting Clone High back on the air,” and the two have considered making a film, despite the fact that the series’ rights are a jumbled mess.
Even if Lord and Miller can never resurrect Clone High, any fan of these two and their films should seek it out. It may be one of the best animated series in decades. — Ross Bonaime
American Horror Story
Alex’s earlier thoughts mirror my difficulty in answering this question. Many of my favorite TV shows (Game of Thrones, Fringe, House, etc) benefit from the unique structure of television. Being able to tell a highly detailed story or develop a character over a long period of time is something that film can never truly capture (though the MCU is giving it an honest try). I pondered what show could make for a good film that hadn’t already been turned into a film or had origins in a movie. I finally arrived at my answer when my thoughts happened upon Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story.
This one almost seems like cheating when a large part of the original marketing/appeal of the series was bringing the horror and gore seen on film to the small screen. This was a concept that largely worked for the first few seasons with the highlight being the second season in this writer’s opinion. Since “Asylum,” though, the series has begun a fast decline with each subsequent iteration. The focus on characters and development has fallen away in favor of an almost exclusive spotlight on cheap thrills and pushing the limits of TV. A great deal of the show’s problem seems to be that the writers are great at setting up several different plotlines and concepts that fall by the wayside as the writers struggle to juggle every factor that has been brought into play. Ultimately, this has resulted in a lot of dropped balls for the show for the past three years.
Enter film. Take the visual flair and keen horror sense that Murphy and Falchuk possess and give it the laser focus of a 90 minute film. By imposing a limited amount of screentime on the writing, they must chose to focus on certain concepts and characters. I do believe that they have the ability to write developed and interesting character arcs. Brevity may be the key making them do it. In the context of film, American Horror Story could tackle the horror of American gothic and still maintain a well-rounded and complete story. With the expanded budget of film, Falchuk and Murphy could also give into their extremist horror tendencies in grander fashion than ever before. — Connor Adamson
As far as I’m concerned, there is a single correct answer to this question, and that is Dan Harmon’s bizarre, nerdy, parody-heavy show Community. This isn’t just because it was a great series that would lend itself well to film, though that’s true too. There’s a very specific reason that this particular show needs a movie.
In the second season of Community, a brief throwaway scene featured TV-obsessed Abed falling in love with the short-lived NBC drama The Cape and wearing a cape all over campus as a sign of fandom. When another character derides him and says, “That show will last three weeks!” Abed’s response is to gleefully yell, “SIX SEASONS AND A MOVIE!”
“Six seasons and a movie” became a rallying hashtag for Community fans, as cancellation seemed to be forever looming over the critically-acclaimed sitcom. The goal seemed unattainable at the end of season three, when showrunner Dan Harmon was let go. It seemed unattainable at the end of a very rocky season four, when Harmon came back but we lost several key actors. It seemed unattainable at the end of season five, when NBC finally pulled the plug. And then, suddenly, season six made its way onto Yahoo! Screen. The show had a near-perfect season six finale, and suddenly the entire fandom realized that we had somehow, inexplicably, gotten so very close to our impossible goal.
Community doesn’t need to be revived again and go on forever. Fans aren’t clamoring for a seventh season. (Frankly, most of us are kind of amazed we got this far.) It would, however, be ridiculous to chug all the way through six seasons and stop *just* short of completing the fans’ dreams since 2011. With Dan Harmon’s love of film clearly demonstrated in the many cinematic parodies throughout the series’ run, there seems no better way to wrap it all up for those who stuck around to the end. — Hannah Keefer